05 September, 2007

Why I Don't Want an EZ Pass, Part II

In light of the recent strike in NYC over the installation of GPS units in cabs, I thought I would continue my EZ Pass post. Below is Part II. (Go here for Part I)


What bothers me, though, is not whether or not the government listens to our phone conversations. We all know that they can and do. What bothers me is that people seem to be so docile about it. People seem to have either accepted surveillance as a normal part of life, or just don't even give it much thought. For me, neither of these feels quite right.

In one of our many talks on political music, my friend Seth mentioned a generation of composers—Italian I think—who "knew what it was like to live under fascism," and behaved accordingly, artistically and otherwise. Could this be it? Do we Americans just not know what it is like to live under fascism and so don't see constant surveillance as among its signifiers? I think this might be part of it, but, as my friend Jeff suggested, and I agree, it is something more uniquely American—more uniquely Capitalist.

I mentioned The Lives of Others earlier, which if you haven't seen you should. In this film, the East German Stasi monitor a playwright who is believed to be, among other things, straying from Communist ideology. (Ideology is something that will be discussed a lot in these pages, I predict.) In a fascist state ideology is key. After all, along with its cousins propaganda and force, ideology, one could argue, is a primary source of totalitarian strength. In this context, the government listens in to insure that its citizens are ideologically adherent, securing the regime's retention of power.

But in a Capitalist system the bottom line is, well, capital. Because of this—and here is Jeff's point—if the average American (which is to say the average apolitical consumer) was being monitored by the government, it would more likely be so that the they could be more efficiently and effectively sold to than it would be to insure any ideological adherence. Of course, one could further argue that buying is Capitalist ideology, and thus ideological adherence is, in fact, being monitored.

(to be continued…)

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